Havering Council’s annual Winter Fuel Poverty programme has returned for the fourth year running, to help vulnerable residents, who may struggle to heat their homes in winter, stay warm and healthy.

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The number of people struggling with energy bills increases each winter as prices rise, and they end up living in a cold home. Anyone can be affected, including elderly people and young families.

Cold homes can have a particularly negative affect on the health of vulnerable people, such as the old, young children and babies, and people with long-term health conditions.

The fuel poverty programme sees the Council working with a range of partners to provide help and advice to residents.

Help could include securing grants for eligible residents to replace boilers that are old or broken, install wall and loft insulation, help families find the cheapest energy tariff and ensure they are receiving all the assistance they are entitled to, or send cold weather befrienders to visit isolated, elderly residents.

The Council’s Telecare alarm service can be used to alert family members if the temperature in a house becomes too low. Residents can also receive home visits to check they are ready for winter.

As well as working alongside partners including HAVCO, the local Citizens Advice Bureau and Age Concern Havering, the Council also works with others, such as healthcare professionals, to identify people who could be adversely affected in cold weather to see what help can be provided through the programme.

Gladys Tuck, a Harold Hill resident who is visited by a cold weather befriender, said

“This is a wonderful idea and I’m now not afraid of the winter months.”

Another resident, Margaret Gage, who also has a befriender, added:

“I feel very grateful and lucky to have someone nearby who I can call if I need them during the snowy weather. It means that I don’t have to take any chances and risk my health, and it gives me peace of mind knowing somebody is thinking of me, if I needed something desperately.”

The programme has been awarded a National Green Apple Environment Award, in recognition of its achievements in helping residents.

Councillor Osman Dervish, Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services, said:

“I am pleased that this vital programme is running again this winter. We may all look forward to the festive season and getting cosy indoors in winter, but that is not the case for everyone.

“Some people struggle to afford their heating bills and, of course, isolated people are most at risk during winter, particularly during snowy or icy weather. This brilliant programme reaches out to our most vulnerable residents. It also helps people to save energy and money as well as making their homes more energy efficient.”

To find out more about the programme emailEnergyStrategy@havering.gov.ukor call 01708 434 628.